Poplar was first recorded, as Popler, in 1327. It takes its name from the poplar tree, in reference to such once having abounded in the marshy ground hereabouts. It was probably first settled in the Medieval period, although still only sparsely populated in the post-Medieval, leastwise before the Great Fire of 1666.
In Tudor times, Sir Thomas Spert and 54 mariners lodged here while sails were made for Henry VIII’s great ship “Henri Grace a Dieu” (which later saw action against the French at the Battle of the Solent, in which the “Mary Rose” sank; and later still transported the king to the peace summit with the French at the Field of the Cloth of Gold).
UNIQUE IN LONDON (AND RARE COUNTRY-WIDE)
In succeeding Stuart times, the (Honourable) East India Company built a chapel here for its workers in nearby Blackwall. Actually, although building work on the chapel commenced in 1642, during the Civil War, it was not completed until 1654, during the inter-regnum between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the restoration of Charles II in 1660. (It is the only place of worship in London to date to this turbulent time, and indeed one of only a very few in the entire country). Its design was originally “severely rectangular”, and as such ideally suited to the form of worship practised by the Puritans, which emphasised the importance of the word over that of the ceremony. The chapel became a parish church, dedicated to St Matthias, when the East India Company dissolved in the 1870s, and the church in turn became a community centre in the 1990s – see link to website below.
The exterior of the building was rebuilt, by William Milford Teulon, younger brother of the more famous Samuel Sanders Teulon, in the late nineteenth century, although, remarkably, the interior remains to this day essentially as it was in the mid-seventeenth.
Link to St Matthias Community Centre website here